Remember all the less-than-kind stuff I said about the Toronto International Film Festival? Well, guess what I did yesterday morning. That’s right, I awoke at 7 am. I thought about going back to sleep, but realized that if I’m serious about what I call my work, I take opportunities when they arise. So I checked out the TIFF website, determined that they were selling tickets for Coriolanus at 9:30 and Anonymous at 11:45 that morning, and hopped on the subway pausing only long enough to brush my teeth. Oh, and dress. I was awake enough to remember that. I then waited in the ticket line, from 7:25 (!—yes, people really will queue from 7 am in the hope of getting same-day TIFF tickets) to about 7:50. At one point, the woman in front of me asked why I wanted to see Coriolanus. I responded that it was a laugh riot, Shakespeare’s funniest play. She seemed to take me at least half seriously; if I understood her correctly she agreed, based on a production she had seen in Romania. Though she may have been joking about the Balkans setting of the film, I was inclined to think there’s something to that. Could you play Coriolanus as a very black comedy? Certainly he takes himself so seriously it’s hard to resist the temptation to mock him; on the page, I’m not sure any of the other characters succumbs (and nobody does in this film, either), but I would absolutely see a production in which they did.
In any event, I finally got to the cash register to find that though I could get a ticket for Anonymous, Coriolanus was on “rush,” i.e. returns. I hustled back to my apartment, showered (it was necessary by then, let me tell you), and caught a streetcar to the theatre. So here it is, not yet 9:15 in the morning, and I am standing in my second line of the day. But damned if I didn’t get in! With an aisle seat in the third row (the handlers were warning us that the rush seats were in the front of the theatre, but that’s where I like to sit; so do directors, I’m told).
And so the lights go down . . . I am trying right now to transcribe the 14 pages of notes I took in the dark; you can imagine what fun that is, but once that’s done I shall write and post reviews. I’m doing them separately in the hope that they might be picked up by some media outlet that attracts lots of eyeballs, hint hint. But for now, possums, the short takes: Coriolanus is limited in its aims—no Verfremdungseffekt here—but brilliant. It grows in memory. Anonymous is—well, I don’t quite know what it is, but it shrinks in memory. Judged as a period romance, it’s a cut and a half below Elizabeth: The Golden Age, that is, bad but not so bad it’s good. Judged on its terms as a polemic in the Authorship Controversy, well, I find myself wondering whether our pal Roland Emmerich is having one over on the Oxfordians. That is, the Shakespeare Conspiracy aspect is so absurd it invites the speculation that it’s a parody of the Oxfordian position. (By the way, the fact that I can have those two reactions indicates a real problem at the heart of this movie. There’s a real problem with the very idea of a nondocumentary film that’s made as a polemic. In rare instances, with real talent involved, you might get a Silkwood or an Erin Brockovich. More often, you get Atlas Shrugged. Anonymous isn’t quite as bad as Atlas Shrugged.)
But more on both films soon–